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Brentwood Parents Focus on Behrmann's Ouster During School Board Meeting

Parents ask questions, but don't get answers, as board members cite privacy concerns.

Probably the most interesting thing about the Brentwood Board of Education meeting Tuesday night was not what was said, but rather what wasn’t said—or answered—and that is: Why is McGrath Elementary School's principal Kathleen Behrmann being bounced from her job after eight years?

Parents peppered the board with comments and questions from their seats in the audience and in front of the microphone during an extended open comment period before the meeting and, again, at the end of the two-hour meeting.

Roughly 45 people attended the meeting. Eight parents spoke; some pointedly, like attorney Jim Malone, who has a child at McGrath.

He wanted to talk about the contract, and asked if Behrmann’s contract is being revoked to one year, or not being renewed? 

“It was reported that (Mrs. Behrmann) was not being renewed, which would assume that a contract had expired,” Malone said. “It is my understanding that there is at least a strong possibility that she has a two-year contract and has another year to run. If that’s the case, if she is not leaving voluntarily, then the school board is not renewing her contract. They are terminating her.”

If that’s the case, conjectured Malone, the district could end up paying for two principal salaries at McGrath next year: that for Behrmann and her replacement - because of potential litigation. The board didn't respond.

Malone then directed his comments to board president Chris Jones.

“If this woman (Behrmann) had one more year to go on her contract and she has done a fantastic job as you’ve stated (in Patch), what in the world are you doing, throwing her out with a year to go?"

And with that began the first round of "no comments," and its variations, from Jones, the board and Superintendent Dr. Charles Penberthy.

“I can’t respond to any personnel question regarding Kathleen Behrmann,” Jones said.

So went the open-comment period - a monologue from parents while most board members sat poker-faced, listening, but not responding.

“That’s the most frustrating thing about this job,” Penberthy said. “Because we are administration, all we can do is listen. We are bound by confidentiality issues and legal statutes.”

Another parent and former board member, Johanna Winfield Berken, sympathized with the board members, but said they should have more clearly explained that the comment period was for public input, not dialogue.

However, there were a few signs of discontent and emotion among some board members as parents took turns talking during the open comment period.

Board member Dan Williams repeatedly nodded his head in disagreement when one parent, Cindy Manestar, a former PTO president and Behrmann supporter, said that she hoped “that the decision that was made (by the board about Behrmann) was made with all the information, and that they asked questions.”

Williams was the only board member who voted to extend Behrmann’s contract at a closed board meeting last month. Fellow board member Michelle Hassemer was not present for the 1-5 vote.

During the meeting, board member Kathy Glowski seemed visibly upset, face red and downcast, as Manestar continued to talk about Behrmann’s high character, in and out of school, and read a letter of support from another parent.

Manestar also took issue with how the news about a new principal was disseminated: the job was posted on the website on Feb. 14, three days before parents received an email from Penberthy.

Angela Lappin, who has a second-grader at McGrath, spoke highly of Behrmann and wanted to know why her job was posted when she hadn’t agreed to step down.

Again, Jones demurred that, “I can’t address that.”

Mark Wilson sat in the audience, and pressed Jones as to when questions from parents would be answered. Jones again reiterated that he couldn’t respond to any matter regarding personnel.

“We’re not asking you to address this right now, though that would be nice,” said Wilson, before asking when the parents might learn more.

“When the issue has been resolved,” Jones said.  

“So when it’s been concluded,” Wilson asked.

“That’s correct,” Jones said.

“So who in fact did you consult with,” Wilson asked.

“I can’t answer that right now,” said Jones, who acknowledged that some might perceive that the issue was mishandled by the board. “I get it,” he said.

“We can’t talk about (a lot of) this stuff,” said board member Keith Rabenberg after the meeting. “It’s a personnel matter, so we can’t. It’s illegal to (do so).”

So what about the contract: was it for one or two years?

“Administrators and principals, as a normal course, have two-year contracts that roll over or they don’t. Since she (Behrmann) has been here for more than two years, you can deduce that at one point in time she at least had a two-year contract,” Rabenberg said.

When pressed if Behrmann’s present contract was for a one or two-year term, Rabenberg responded: “I can’t comment on that.”

Shanahan March 04, 2012 at 01:42 AM
I was only asking for a rebuttal, not flexing any sort of power to justify anything. Anthony was calling out Addison without providing any logic and now he has presented facts and insight. Now we have gotten somewhere.
hoss March 05, 2012 at 09:52 PM
Yes, true enough, one side of the story, perhaps, may only be in the Patch, at this time; however, a court of law it will be both sides story it is only a matter of time. Mr. Harper is correct, anyone, who takes the time to serve their community, should be admired, but, that is as far as that goes. This is not a free pass for them not to exercise their over sight function of the public agencies they oversee, or allow themselves to overwhelmed by legalese or by expert speak. Group think is the surest sign of dysfunction in any organization. Board members are entrusted to ask questions and demand that the demand administration, cross all the “t” and dot all “I” and to get it right, and prevent, what could possibly, be a rather, costly law suit for the BSD. All Brentwood stakeholders must make their objections know as to the unjust “termination” of Kathleen Behrmann. All Brentwood residents who object to this injustice must make their voices known to the board by attending its regular next meeting. Let the Brentwood Board of Education know that they have erred and need to represent the interest of the Community, and retain Kathleen Behrmann in her current position.
Ed March 06, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Hoss! Just putting this out there! 5 members of the board voted for/ 1 voted against! They had all the facts! Nobody as far as I know Denies she is an exemplary human being and an amazing Educator! Sometimes that might not translate to effective administrator. We do not have the PERSONAL details or PROFESIONAL details, that is what the board Privately and discretely evaluates in our behalf! So if 5 voted one way and 1 against why would we have to assume that 1 person was so correct and the other 5 were totally wrong? I can tell you that I admired Mother Theresa but I would not have wanted her to be the PRESIDENT of Apple Corp!
Mary Konroy March 06, 2012 at 03:09 PM
It would be interesting to know how board member Michelle Hassemer would have voted: pro or con Behrmann's removal. She was absent that day.
K Smith March 09, 2012 at 12:47 AM
Ed, Dr. Penworthy told Kathleen Behrmann she was being terminated due to low MAP scores and that parents don't like her. These are both INCORRECT! McGrath's MAP scores have been higher than the district scores in some of the recent years and we know the parents love Mrs. Behrmann as witnessed by the recent turnout at the board meeting.

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